Supreme Court Victory!!!

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Thu, 4 Mar 1999 09:16:30 -0500


From: "Marcie Roth"
Subject: Supreme Court Victory!!!
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 21:50:05 -0500


Kudos to the 7 Supreme Court Justices who "got it" and boos to the 2 who
didn't. Let's hope at least as many "get" Olmstead!!!

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal law requires the nation's public school
districts
to pay for professional nurses to accompany some disabled students
throughout the school day, the Supreme Court ruled today in the case of
an 
Iowa teen-ager.

The court, by a 7-2 vote, said such continuous care is not medical
treatment,
and therefore must be publicly funded under the federal Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.

The case, closely watched by school administrators and special-education
advocates nationwide, means the Cedar Rapids Community School District 
must pay thousands of dollars a year to provide nursing care for Garrett
Frey, 
a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic who is now a high school sophomore.

The federal law provides that all children with disabilities receive a
``free
appropriate public education.'' Under it, public schools are required to
provide various ``special education and related services,'' but an
exception
is made for medical treatment.

Garrett, described by Justice John Paul Stevens today as a ``friendly,
creative and intelligent young man,'' was paralyzed from the neck down in
a
motorcycle accident when he was 4 years old.

His daily health care include urinary catheterization, suctioning of his
tracheotomy, providing food and drink, repositioning in his wheelchair,
monitoring his blood pressure and someone familiar with the various 
alarms on his ventilator.

School officials in Cedar Rapids said the special help Garrett requires
so
he can attend his local high school is so involved and so expensive it 
should be considered medical treatment. A federal appeals court
disagreed, 
and today the Supreme Court said the appeals court was right.

``This case is about whether meaningful access to the public schools will
be
assured, not the level of education that a school must finance once
access
is attained,'' Stevens wrote for the court. ``Under the statute, our
precedent
and the purposes of the IDEA, the district must fund such related
services
to help guarantee that students like Garrett are integrated into the
public
schools.''

Stevens acknowledged that the school district ``may have legitimate
financial concerns'' in providing continuous, one-on-one nursing care,
but 
said the court's only role was to interpret what the federal law
requires.

``Congress intended to open the door of public education to all qualified
children and required participating states to educate handicapped
children
with non-handicapped children whenever possible,'' he added.

Joining Stevens were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices
Sandra
Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and
Stephen G. Breyer.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy dissented. In an opinion 
by Thomas, they said the decision ``blindsides unwary states with fiscal
obligations that they could not have anticipated.''

Through most of his schooling, Garret has been assisted by a licensed
practical nurse, paid through an insurance policy and funds from the $1.3
million settlement with the motorcycle company involved in the accident
that
paralyzed him.

Today's decision could subject the school district to more than $285,000
in
legal fees and nursing costs, although there had been little agreement
between the school district's lawyers and attorneys for Garret's mother, 
Charlene Frey, over the cost of providing one-one-one nursing care for
him.

The school district's lawyers have estimated that cost as $30,000 to
$40,000
per year in addition to the $10,000 to $12,000 now spent to provide
Garret
with a teacher associate.

The Freys' lawyer has said the estimates are inflated, and that a
registered
nurse could take over the duties of the teacher associate and cost the
school district about $18,000 a year.

The case is Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., 96-1793.

If you ever think we are too small to make a difference, try spending the
night cooped up with a mosquito" -Swahili proverb-

Marcie Roth
Director of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy
TASH-Disability Advocacy Worldwide
29 W. Susquehanna Avenue Suite 210
Baltimore, MD 21204
Email: marcie@erols.com
Phone: (410) 828-8274 X 104
Website: www.tash.org


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